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New South Wales - Organisation

Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes (1911 - 1955)

  • Burnside Orphanage, Parramatta: general view

    Burnside Orphanage, Parramatta: general view, August 1920, courtesy of State Library of New South Wales.
    Details

From
1911
To
1955
Categories
Children's Home, Cottage Care, Home, Orphanage, Presbyterian, Protestant, Receiving Agency and Uniting Church
Alternative Names
  • Burnside
  • Burnside Homes for Orphans
  • Burnside Orphan Homes
  • Burnside Orphanage

Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes, on Pennant Hills Road at North Parramatta, were children's homes founded in 1911 by philanthropist Sir James Burns. Burnside pioneered cottage care in Australia and was a functioning village, with 14 cottages, all grand in scale, its own farm, hospital and school, and a gymnasium and swimming pool. In 1955 Burnside changed its name to Burnside Presbyterian Homes for Children, as the word 'orphan' was stigmatising and misleading.

Details

James Burns (1846-1923) was a Presbyterian philanthropist, whose wealth derived from his shipping and business activities, including his part in the giant trading firm Burns Philp and Co. Ltd. He became aware that the Presbyterian Church wanted to establish a home for orphaned and destitute children. In 1909 he offered to purchase 45 acres of land in North Parramatta and transfer it to the Church, together with a donation of ₤500. The offer was accepted. Despite the close links with the Presbyterian Church, Burnside was independent and was not controlled by the Church hierarchy. The Burnside Homes were established and maintained entirely by private donations, including from James Burns' estate.

The first home, No 1 Cottage, or 'Blairgowrie', was opened on 17 June 1911 by Lady Dudley, wife of the Governor General. Within 12 years, there were 14 homes on the North Parramatta site, caring for more than 500 children in cottage-style accommodation. Burnside had its own school with a gymnasium and swimming pool, a hall, a hospital, playing fields, and a farm, dairy and vegetable garden. There was also staff accommodation.

The cottage homes established at Burnside were unique in the early twentieth century. Most were designed to care for around 30 children in each home, which was considered to be a model for child care. The Board of Directors was receptive to innovations in child care, and Burnside was considered to offer a very high standard of care.

In 1921, Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes were granted 5 shillings per week for every orphan in its care by the NSW Government. This allowance was extended to a range of private institutions that cared for children.

In 1922, Burnside became involved in child and youth migration. 'Reid Home', bestowed by Mr and Mrs Andrew Reid, was built to house Scottish war orphans but as few such children could be found, instead was home to 22 Irish Protestant children, who arrived in December.

Although Burnside Homes were called 'orphan homes', few of the children were actual orphans, in the sense of having lost both parents. Children were usually committed to the homes because of poverty, family breakdown, illness and hardship. Parents were expected to pay fees to maintain their children and were allowed to maintain contact, although this was limited to set visiting hours, on rare Sundays. This separation was heartbreaking for children and their parents.

'We were Burnie Kids', a film made by Burnside in the period 1937-1940 to promote its work, depicts a typical (though made-up) family seeking help from Burnside. The made-up family has a father dying from war service, a mother exhausted by working and caring and live in squalid, dark accommodation in inner-city Sydney. When the father dies, the mother collapses and, reluctantly, agrees to her children being taken to Burnside by the Presbyterian minister. The arrival at Burnside, where the children walk through the great sandstone gates on Pennant Hills Road and join hundreds of other children playing in the open air, is shown as a happy ending for the children, and the film goes on to show children at school, in their dormitories and enjoying living, working and playing on the spacious grounds. The film is idealistic, but is truthful in that many families chose Burnside for their children during hard times. Although never ideal, Burnside was rather less bleak than many other children's institutions at this time.

During World War II (1942-1945) the children and teachers of Burnside were evacuated to Springwood, to ensure the safety of the children and free up the land for the war effort. The farm and buildings at North Parramatta were used by the Australian Army throughout the war, and children did not return until 1945.

Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes changed its name to Burnside Presbyterian Homes for Children in 1955, in recognition of the fact that most children in the home were not orphans.

Location

1911 - 1953
Location - Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes was situated on Pennant Hills Road at North Parramatta. Location: North Parramatta
1946 - 1955
Location - Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes was situated at North Parramatta. Location: North Parramatta

Timeline

 1911 - 1955 Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes
       1955 - 1978 Burnside Presbyterian Homes for Children
             1978 - 1986 Burnside Homes for Children
                   1986 - 2000 Burnside
                         2000 - Uniting Burnside

Provided 'Care' At

Related Archival Collections

Related Events

Related Glossary Terms

  • Cottage Homes

    Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes were run on the cottage home system

  • Orphan
  • Youth Migrant

    Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes received Irish protestant child migrants

    Date: 1922 - c. 1942

Related Organisations

Publications

Books

  • Keen, Susan, Burnside: 75 years of caring, Burnside Homes for Children, 1986. Details
  • Shayler, Kate, The Long Way Home: The Story of a Homes Kid, Random House, Milsons Point, N.S.W., 2001. Details
  • Shayler, Kate, Burnished: Burnside Life Stories, MoshPit Publishing, Hazelbrook, NSW, 2011, 280 pp. Details

Online Resources

Photos

Burnside Orphanage, Parramatta: general view
Title
Burnside Orphanage, Parramatta: general view
Type
Image
Date
August 1920
Source
State Library of New South Wales

Details

Burnside Orphanage, Parramatta
Title
Burnside Orphanage, Parramatta
Type
Image
Date
August 1920
Source
State Library of New South Wales

Details

We were Burnie kids
Title
We were Burnie kids
Type
Video
Date
1937 - c. 1940

Details

Immigration - Ethnic festivals, arts and crafts in Australia - Coronation Celebrations - Greta Children in Sydney - Coronation Week, Burnside orphanage
Title
Immigration - Ethnic festivals, arts and crafts in Australia - Coronation Celebrations - Greta Children in Sydney - Coronation Week, Burnside orphanage
Type
Image
Date
1953

Details

Dunkeld
Title
Dunkeld
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

War Memorial
Title
War Memorial
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Airlie
Title
Airlie
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Blackwood
Title
Blackwood
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Blairgowrie
Title
Blairgowrie
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Cumbrae
Title
Cumbrae
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Eskdale
Title
Eskdale
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Ivanhoe
Title
Ivanhoe
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Lincluden
Title
Lincluden
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Reid
Title
Reid
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Robertson
Title
Robertson
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Ross
Title
Ross
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Troup
Title
Troup
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Burnside Primary School
Title
Burnside Primary School
Type
Document
Date
c. 2013

Details

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Orphans', The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 February 1921, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15959476; 'Where did the children go?', in Stolen childhoods, Part of a site exhibition that accompanied On Their Own, the National Maritime Museum of Australia and National Museums Liverpool touring exhibition about child migration from Britain., Immigration Museum, Museum Victoria, 2011-2012, http://museumvictoria.com.au/immigrationmuseum/discoverycentre/stolen-childhoods/where-did-the-children-go/; Abbott, GJ and Gibbney, HJ, 'Burns, Sir James (1946-1923)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University and Melbourne University Press, 2006, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/burns-sir-james-177; Keen, Susan, Burnside: 75 years of caring, Burnside Homes for Children, 1986; Thinee, Kristy and Bradford, Tracy, Connecting Kin: Guide to Records, A guide to help people separated from their families search for their records [completed in 1998], New South Wales Department of Community Services, Sydney, New South Wales, 1998, http://nma.gov.au/blogs/inside/files/2011/02/connectkin_guide1.pdf; We were Burnie kids [Video], Date: 1937 - c. 1940.

Prepared by: Naomi Parry